A national phone scam has brought warnings of caution from Sampson Regional Medical Center.
The local hospital has urged citizens, along with the N.C. Hospital Association, to treat any unsolicited phone call with skepticism and not to provide personal, medical or financial information over the phone unless they initiated the call to a reliable company.
Those warnings follow instances of at least three hospitals that have fallen victim to the scam, in which citizens receive phone calls from callers who identify themselves as hospital representatives. The callers are attempting to obtain personal information, conduct surveys or sell products.
In many cases, the individuals receiving the calls have not been a hospital patient.
Amber Cava, vice-president of Marketing & Community Relations at Sampson Regional, said hospital officials are already working closely with the Clinton Police Department to bring awareness of the scam to the community.
“While such calls have not been reported in Sampson County at this time, Sampson Regional Medical Center aims to inform the community in an effort to protect any residents who may receive a scam phone call,” the hospital said in a statement Monday.
According to hospital officials, the scammers use caller ID technology to make the calls appear as though they are from the hospital. They may attempt to collect information about insurance or sell vitamins or other products.
“Sampson Regional Medical Center makes legitimate phone calls to patients for follow up after procedures or discharge, for appointment reminders, or for billing services,” the statement read. “During such calls, SRMC may ask for a patient’s insurance information. However, SRMC does not engage in telemarketing services to sell vitamins, lotions, or any other products.”
Onslow Memorial Hospital has taken the same stance. It was one of the three hospitals that fell victim to the scam.
Callers identifying themselves as representatives of Onslow Memorial Hospital have attempted to obtain personal information, conduct surveys or sell products.
This request for information is fraudulent and is not from Onslow Memorial Hospital, even though the Caller ID displays the hospital’s name and many trust it, Onslow Memorial officials said.
Amy Sousa, vice-president of Public Relations at Onslow Memorial Hospital, said that since the scam began, their hospital switchboard has been inundated with calls. Similar to Sampson, the Onslow Memorial Hospital is now paying close attention to the scam in coordination with the state and federal agencies.
“We understand the anxiety this phone scam has caused,” Sousa said.
She assured patients that their records are considered protected health information under federal and state law and safeguards are consistently in place. The N.C. State Attorney General, the N.C. Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as well as local law enforcement were also notified, she said.
“We have also shared our experience with media and other North Carolina hospitals in an effort to alert other communities,” said Sousa. “Onslow Memorial is only one of many hospitals throughout the nation that is a victim of these people.”
That is what brought the matter to Sampson Regional’s attention. Local hospital officials here expressed similar assurances to the public, however urged those who receive such a scam call to bring it to the attention of Sampson Regional and local law enforcement.
Those who have never been a patient at SRMC or are not currently scheduled for a medical procedure are unlikely to have received a call from SRMC, they said. On the flip side, SRMC patients unsure about the call should ask for the caller’s name, hospital department and a direct phone number to call them back.
Clinton Police Chief Jay Tilley said if anyone has questions or doubts about the authenticity of the person calling, then they should call the agency that person claims to represent to verify.
Those receiving a questionable call should write down as much information as possible — date/time of call and Caller ID shown, as well as any other information. Report that information to local law enforcement authorities — the Sampson Sheriff’s Office at 910-592-4141 or the Clinton Police Department at 910-592-3105 — or call the State Attorney General Office at 919-716-6000.